The Santa Maria

      "In fourteen hundred ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue," so begins the Columbus Day poem, used for teaching history. It goes on to say, "He had three ships and left from Spain; He sailed through sunshine, wind and rain."

      These three ships of Columbus were La Santa Maria, La Niña, and La Pinta, described as modest merchant vessels comparable in size to a yacht.   La Santa Maria (the Holy Mary), the flagship, was originally called La Gallega, (pertaining to one from Galicia, on northwestern corner of Iberian Peninsula), but had an even longer name, La Santa María de la Inmaculada Concepción (The Holy Mary of the Immaculate Conception).

     They sailed out into the Atlantic from the Spanish port of Palos on August 3rd, 1492 While the Atlantic is one of the seven seas, the seas are globally all joined together.    It's interesting to note, that the plural of mare, the Latin word for sea, is maria, spelled the same as Mary is spelled in Latin.  

     So while Columbus was being carried in a vessel named for this very special Maria, it's curious that the vessel itself was carried upon the waters which together are called maria.    On this momentous voyage, they came to discover an island in the present-day Bahamas, which Columbus called San Salvador, meaning "Holy Savior."  As Holy Mary is linked to our Holy Savior, so the vessel Santa Maria is linked to San Salvador in the Age of Discovery.   As the ships with their sails reflected in the water,  they cast a reflection of our Redemptive history.

      Although Columbus hadn't planned a settlement, the Santa Maria would come to stay in the New World, through
an event that occurred when the ship was accidentally grounded on a reef.

     Samuel Eliot Morison, called one of America's most distinguished historians, tells us what happened, in his work, Admiral of the Ocean Sea.   It was still December 24th, 1492, and though forbidden by Columbus to do so, a sleepy helmsman had turned over the tiller to a sailor called a gromet whose duty was to turn the hourglass called the ampolleta.

      Just as the grains of sand of the ampolleta ran out, indicating the beginning of Christmas Day, the Santa Maria slid gently onto a coral reef. The boy "gave tongue," Columbus awoke and was first on deck. While he was trying to float the ship free, the vessel was driven higher and yet higher on the reef  
by "the long swells that came in from seaward." While the Santa Maria had grounded bow on, Morison wrote, "her stern swung around so that she lay athwart the sea, each surge lifted her up and let her down with a thump on the rock, and coral rock can punch holes in a wooden ship faster than any other kind." Columbus tried to lighten her by having the mainmast cut away. The seams opened and water was filling the hull. Columbus saw he could do no more and ferried his men to the Niña, standing by till daylight.   Columbus ordered building a tower and fortress ashore, calling it La Navidad (Christmas), using  planks and timber from the stricken flagship.

    The Santa Maria had come to the New World to stay.
                            ―  John Riedell   


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